The Word Made Fresh
1In the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon invaded Judah and surrounded Jerusalem. His army encamped around the city behind barricades. 2The city lay under siege for two years, 3and by the ninth day of the fourth month of that year the people had no food. 4Then king Zedekiah and his soldiers fled the city through the gate by the king’s garden, made a breach in the barricades the enemy had erected and fled toward the Arabah wilderness. 5They were pursued by the Chaldeans and were overtaken on the plains of Jericho. His soldiers deserted him and fled. 6They captured Zedekiah and brought him to Riblah to the king of Babylon who decided his fate. 2They put Zedekiah’s sons to death before his eyes, and then blinded him, tied him up, and took him captive to Babylon.
8On the seventh day of the fifth month in the nineteenth year of king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, his bodyguard captain, Nebuzaradan, was sent to Jerusalem. 9He burned down the LORD’s temple, the king’s palace, and all the largest houses of the city. 10The Chaldean soldiers who came with him demolished the walls around the city. 11He carried the remaining population into exile, 12but left a few of the poorest of the people to tend the vineyards and farm the soil.
13The Chaldeans broke up all the bronze fixtures in the LORD’s temple and carried the bronze to Babylon. 14They collected all the pots, shovels, snuffers, platters, and other bronze containers used in the temple service, 15along with firepans and tubs. Nebuzaradan took everything made of gold and silver. 16The bronze Solomon used for the two columns, the large sea basin, and the stands in the temple was more than could be weighed. 17The columns were twenty-seven feet tall, capped by bronze capitals that added another four and a half feet. The capitals were decorated with latticework and pomegranates of bronze.
18Then Nebuzaradan arrested the chief priest Seraiah, his assistant Zephaniah and the three entrance guards, 19an army officer and five of the king’s councilmen who were in the city, along with the king’s secretary who had summoned the people of the land, and sixty of them who had come into the city. 20He took them to the king of Babylon at Riblah, 21who had them all executed there in the land of Hamath. And the people of Judah were taken into exile.
22Nebuzaradan appointed Gedaliah, son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, as governor over the remnant of the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had left in Judah. 23When the army captains of Judah heard that Gedaliah had been appointed governor, they came out of hiding with their remaining soldiers to meet with him at Mizpah. They were Ishmael son of Nethaniah, Johanan son of Kareah, Seraiah son of Tanhumeth the Netophathite, and Jaazaniah son of the Maacathite. 24Gedaliah told them, “Don’t be afraid of the Chaldean officials; live in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and all will be well.” 25But during the seventh month, Ishmael, son of Nethaniah, son of Elishama, a relative of king Zedekiah, came with ten soldiers and killed Gedaliah along with the Judeans and the Chaldeans with him at Mizpah. 26Then all the people and the remaining army officers fled to Egypt for fear of the Chaldeans.
27Thirty-seven years after King Jehoiachin of Judah had been exiled, on the twenty-seventh day of the twelfth month, the Babylonian king Evil-Merodach, who was in the first year of his reign, released King Jehoiachin of Judah from prison. 28He treated him kindly and seated him above the other kings who were captives in Babylon. 29So, Jehoiachin shed his prison garb and dined daily in the king’s presence for the rest of his life. 30The king gave him a daily allowance as long as he lived.
1-7: Eventually Zedekiah becomes convinced that Nebuchadnezzar is no longer able to hang onto his far-flung empire and decides to declare his independence. Bad idea. Nebuchadnezzar attacks Jerusalem, blockades the city and builds siegeworks to use against it. Zedekiah holds out for two whole years. The suffering of the people must be unimaginable, but there is a precedent of God stepping in and making a far superior army retreat overnight (remember Sennacherib? See 19:35-37). And there is Hezekiah’s tunnel (20:20) by which the city’s water supply is assured, and they are determined to hang on. Eventually, though, the food runs out. Zedekiah flees but is captured. Nebuchadnezzar has all of Zedekiah’s sons put to death in his sight and then puts out his eyes so that the death of his children is the last thing he sees. He is bound and taken off to Babylon.
It seems, then, that David’s line has finally come to an end. But we haven’t quite reached the end of the chapter.
8-12: Jerusalem has thus been captured a second time, and this time Nebuchadnezzar is determined to make the victory a permanent one. He sends Nebuzaradan to destroy the city. The walls are torn down and every prominent building burned to the ground, including the temple. The people are rounded up and driven to exile in Babylon except for a handful of the poorest among them to keep the vineyards and crops producing food and drink – for the Babylonian army and overseers, no doubt.
13-17: All that remains of the worship of the LORD is either destroyed or carried away as spoil to Babylon. The temple is gone. All the trappings of the religious faith of the people of Judah are hauled away.
18-21: Nebuzaradan rounds up all the religious officials, chief priest and others, and takes them by force to the camp at Riblah where Nebuchadnezzar waits, and Nebuchadnezzar has all of them put to death.
It seems, then that the worship of the LORD, the God of Israel, has come to an end. But we haven’t quite reached the end of the chapter.
22-26: Gedaliah is appointed governor of Judah – notice that he is not called king; he is not, after all, a descendant of David. Gedaliah tries to persuade the local warlords scattered around the hills of Judah that being subservient to Babylon isn’t a bad thing. He meets with them at Mizpah, but they aren’t willing to capitulate, and Gedaliah is assassinated. The warlords, led by one Ishmael (who shares his name with the first son of Abraham – poetic justice?), gather many of the people from the countryside and flee (quickly!) to Egypt to avoid Nebuchadnezzar’s certain retaliation.
Now all the leaders are gone, and Judah is no more. But we haven’t quite reached the end of the chapter.
27-30: Our historian decides to end his account with an extraordinary bit of information. Nebuchadnezzar dies and a new king comes to Babylon. And 37 years after he had been hauled away as a captive to Babylon, Jehoiachin, the last true king of Judah – the one who was not appointed by Nebuchadnezzar; the one whose name was not changed by Nebuchadnezzar; the one who ruled only three months before he was taken captive; the last direct descendant of David to sit on the throne in Jerusalem, although his reign only lasted 3 months (see 24:8-17) – this “son of David” is set free from prison and given a place of honor at the table of the new king of Babylon, Evil-Merodach.
Extraordinary. Maybe there is hope for God’s people after all.
All the religious trappings of the worship of the God of Israel are now done away with. The only thing remaining that can possibly restore them is their faith in God. The lesson is that God’s punishment of sinners is always followed by God’s restoration of them.
Israel is gone. Judah is gone. But nations don’t matter. Kings and other rulers don’t matter. Faith is what matters.